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New York cats have coronavirus

World

Two pet cats in New York state have tested positive for the coronavirus, as that state’s death toll passes 20,000 and the US toll races to pass 50,000 deaths within days.

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Marking the first confirmed virus cases in US companion animals, the cats are thought to have contracted the virus from people in their households or neighbourhoods, the US Department of Agriculture and the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said.

The cats, which live in different parts of the state, had mild respiratory illnesses and are expected to recover.

The finding comes after positive tests in some tigers and lions at the Bronx Zoo and adds to a small number of confirmed cases of the virus in animals worldwide.

US authorities say that while it appears some animals can get the virus from people, there’s no indication pets are transmitting it to human beings.

“We don’t want people to panic. We don’t want people to be afraid of pets or to rush to test them en masse,” a CDC official said.

“There’s no evidence that pets are playing a role in spreading this disease to people.”

But the agency recommends that people prevent their pets from interacting with people or animals outside their homes, by keeping cats indoors and dogs out of dog parks.

Coronavirus testing for pets isn’t recommended unless an animal has been exposed to a person with COVID-19, the animal has symptoms of the disease and tests have ruled out more common possible causes.

Veterinarians who think testing is warranted are supposed to contact state officials to decide.

Scientists studying the virus have been looking closely at links between human and animals and are working to understand the potential for transmission to animals in homes, farms and elsewhere.

So far, it doesn’t appear that livestock or poultry are susceptible.

It comes as US President Donald Trump welcomed some states moving to lift coronavirus restrictions and reboot their economies, as the nation’s death toll approaches 50,000 after another 1800 fatalities overnight.

Trump on Wednesday applauded steps by a handful of Republican-led US states to reopen their economies.

But New York’s governor said that it was “no time to act stupidly” as his state recorded another 474 deaths overnight, taking its toll past 20,000.

The US has the world’s highest coronavirus death rate, with its toll passing 47,000 overnight and at current rates could hit 50,000 days within days.

Wednesday’s death count was about 1800, with some states yet to report. US deaths increased by 2792 on Tuesday alone, just shy of a peak of 2806 deaths in a single day on April 15.

A University of Washington model, often cited by the White House, projected a total of nearly 66,000 US coronavirus deaths by August 4 – an increase from its most recent previous estimate of 60,000 deaths.

But some US states, mostly in the South, are loosening stay-at-home guidelines, allowing an array of non-essential businesses to reopen in the hope of reviving their devastated economies.

Governor Greg Abbott of Texas said on Wednesday he will announce a plan next week to broadly reopen the state’s economy during the first week of May.

Georgia’s Republican Governor Brian Kemp is allowing gyms, hair salons, bowling alleys and tattoo and massage parlours to reopen on Friday, followed by cinemas and restaurants next week.

And Trump, a Republican seeking re-election on November 3, gave these states a show of support on Twitter.

“States are safely coming back. Our Country is starting to OPEN FOR BUSINESS again. Special care is, and always will be, given to our beloved seniors (except me!),” wrote the 73-year-old.

States and local governments previously issued “stay-at-home” or “shelter-in-place” orders affecting about 94 per cent of Americans to try to limit the number of new cases of COVID-19.

The restrictions have battered the American economy, with mandatory business closures leaving millions of Americans unemployed. Political leaders have engaged in an acrimonious debate over when and how to reopen the economy.

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo, a Democrat who met with Trump on Tuesday, said his state was showing more signs the worst was over including a drop in hospitalisations, but warned of a potential “second wave” if restrictions are relaxed irresponsibly.

“This is no time to act stupidly,” Cuomo added.

“More people are going to die if we are not smart.”

Cuomo acknowledged that local officials feel political pressure to reopen businesses but warned against making decisions based on such factors.

“We make a bad move, it’s going to set us back,” he said.

Separately, Trump touted a planned reopening of US national parks, although he offered no specifics and the National Park Service said in a statement it would provide details “in the coming days.”

-with AAP

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